CommonSenseMedia.org and Parents teamed up to find films that aren’t scary for preschoolers or babyish for older children. Just press play!
This gentle, gorgeous animated film by famous Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki focuses on two young girls who find that their country home is a mythical forest. “The slow pace is perfect for younger kids, but details like the cat bus are clever enough for older ones,” says Sierra Filucci, of Oakland, California, whose kids have watched it for years. Ages 5+, 86 minutes.
This sweet live-action friendship tale about an orange tabby kitten and a young pug who have strayed from their farm has a bit of peril, but the animals’ cuteness will keep children of all ages oohing and aahing. Ages 5+, 76 minutes.
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There’s no villain in this Pixar gem about rookie racer Lightning McQueen. “My 4-year-old daughter was initially drawn to it since it was her older brother’s fave, but now she likes Sally, the girl car,” says Cindy Leahy, of Marshfield, Massachusetts. Ages 5+, 117 minutes.
Whether it’s Elsa accidentally hurting her younger sister or a sisterly sacrifice that saves the day, siblings will relate to the plot. Of course, catchy songs and Olaf the Snowman make the movie even more mesmerizing. Ages 5+, 102 minutes.
Unlike the commercialized 2012 version, this shorter film delivers environmental messages in a way that even young kids can understand. They’ll like the repetition “I speak for the trees!” and wordplay such as “Gluppity-Glupp” and “Schloppity-Schlopp,” while older kids will enjoy song sequences that break up heavier moments. Ages 5+, 25 minutes.
This live-action classic has goofy humor and “Rainbow Connection” for little kids and warm, meaningful messages about persistence and friendship for older sibs. Ages 6+, 95 minutes.
Young kids will love Snoopy’s silly antics, while older ones will commiserate with Charlie Brown’s challenges as he works to win the affection of the Little Red-Haired Girl. “My 8-year-old related to Charlie Brown’s struggles getting through school, but that plot flew over my 4-year-old’s head,” says Jennifer Starkey, of St. Louis. “Instead, Snoopy was his favorite character—he sleeps with a stuffed one.” Ages 4+, 88 minutes.
There’s barely any dialogue in this stop-motion film based on a British television series, making it easier for young children to understand the plot. The older crowd will think the sheep’s disguises are pretty funny. Ages 4+, 85 minutes.
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Children of all ages love seeing toys come to life and have adventures. And there’s not too much that’s likely to worry little kids. “My 6-year-old likes the part where Mrs. Potato Head joins the family while my younger son is enthralled with any scene that involves Buzz Lightyear,” says Jeanette Leon Go, of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Ages 5+, 81 minutes.
Ideal for short attention spans, this animated picture-book adaptation offers appealing messages to older sibs. “The movie’s tone helps my boys, ages 4 and 6, mellow out,” says Jennifer Loyer, a preschool teacher. Ages 3+, 27 minutes.